Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights. It is celebrated in the fall, some time in October or November. Traditionally, people light lamps and decorate their homes to attract Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Diwali is the biggest holiday in India, and celebrating it is a good way to teach children about Indian culture. There are many activities that can be planned for preschool-aged children to learn about Diwali.
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A rangoli is a pattern that is drawn close to the entrance of a home to welcome visitors. During Diwali, rangoli are used to attract the goddess of prosperity, Lakshmi. Since rangoli come in all shape and sizes, children can use their creativity to make their own. Show the children pictures of rangoli to spark their imaginations and give them chalk to draw them on the floor, or with crayons on paper. Children can also draw the outline of the rangoli in a piece of paper; fill the sections with glue and sprinkle coloured sand to colour the pattern.
Lamps are an important part of Diwali; they are lighted throughout homes to decorate and honour Lakshmi. Preschool children can make their own lamps using modelling clay. Help them mould the clay into bowl shapes and add a piece of yarn for the wicks. Give the children paint to decorate their lamps when they are dry. Another idea is to make lamps out of construction paper. Help the children cut a flame out of yellow construction paper and a lamp shape from another colour. Then glue the flame onto the lamp and add a piece of yarn to hang it. They can also be decorated with glitter and markers.
Dance and Dress-Up
Music is part of any Indian celebration. Download festive Indian music from the Internet or check out a CD from your local library. Play the music and let the children dance as they please. To add more fun, have the children dress up in traditional Indian clothing and make their own jewellery. They can use aluminium foil and sparkly pipe cleaners to make bracelets and rings by twisting them. The girls can wear a sari, a traditional Indian dress, using a large colourful piece of fabric. Look in the Resources section for instructions on how to wear a sari.
There are many traditional sweet treats children can enjoy making and eating. Rice kheer is a kind of rice pudding made with fried cashew nuts and raisins. Another tasty and easy-to-make treat is carrot halwa. Carrots are grated and boiled in milk, then fried with sugar, cardamom, melon seeds and cashew nuts. Coconut and dry sweets are also very popular during Diwali. To make a coconut treat, instruct the children to soften dry apricot halves and stuff them with a mix of sweetened cream cheese and coconut flakes. Look in the Resources section for more Diwali recipes.
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